Community Supported Agriculture

Community Supported Agriculture, or CSA, referrers to a particular group of individuals who support one or more local farms by sharing in the benefits of their harvest.

Typically, at the beginning of the season, subscriptions are sold by a farm or cooperative for a weekly food box either delivered or to be picked up. Oftentimes, starting in May, and ending around Thanksgiving, members can receive a variety of vegetables, lettuces, meats, eggs or fruit. The price per week can vary from $25 up to $100 and can feed a family for several meals and supplement your visits to the grocery store.

CSA memberships will provide fresh nutrient dense freshly harvested foods in a convenient and accessible way. Here are a few that we recommend:

Kawartha CSA
Stoddart’s Family Farm
Twin Creeks Farm
Everdale Farm
Vicki’s Veggies




Slow Food. Italy. And We.

Now a worldwide community, Slow Food was created in Italy in the mid 1980’s to promote an alternative to the expanding global community and to focus on preserving “traditional and regional cuisine(s) and encourages farming of plant, seeds, and livestock characteristic of the local ecosystem.” Every two years in Turin, Italy at the Terra Madre (Mother Earth) Conference, a network of food visionaries will gather to discuss, “innovative concepts in the field of food, gastronomy, globalization, economics.” Preparations are under way for this years conference, which will be held in a few weeks and for the first time will be open to the public. Delegates from over a 150 countries will be represented at the conference introducing untold numbers of flavours and food traditions.

This year we have been selected by Slow Food Canada to share examples of our Slightly Seedy Cracker and Lavender Shortbread Cookie, both made Red Fife wheat. A wheat that was brought from Scotland and was planted in the Peterborough area of southern Ontario in the 1840’s by David Fife. Naturally resistant to certain fungicides it acclimated well to Canada’s farmland and was planted across the prairies as people settled westward. Although renowned for its nutty and robust flavour it went by the wayside for a wheat that harvested earlier and for much of the 20th century was forgotten. Twenty years ago, a small amount of Red Fife seeds were acquired from a Canadian seed bank and planted by Sharon Remple. By the support of Slow Food’s heritage foods advocacy and the Ark of Taste along with several dedicated farmers and artisan bakers, Red Fife wheat is once again being planted from coast to coast.

“The hand that holds the seed controls the food supply. May seed always be in the hands of gardeners and farmers who will save and share this wealth.”

– Sharon Rempel

“David Fife, operator of the first experimental farm in Canada and developer of Red Fife Wheat” (Wikapedia source image)

From Porridge to Polenta: cooked cereal grains made easy


Cooked cereal grains have been a staple throughout civilization and “provide more food energy worldwide than any other crop.” As whole grains, they provide more vitamins, minerals and protein than their refined counterparts. (After removal of the bran and germ where mostly carbohydrates are left behind.) Ancient farming communities from areas in and around Egypt and Iraq first domesticated emmeri wheat, einkorn wheat and barley.

Beyond west Asia there are several important staple cereal grains grown worldwide: maize (Americas, Africa), rice (tropical, temperate regions), sorghum (Asia, Africa), millet (Asia, Africa), oats (worldwide), rye (colder climates), fonio (Africa), buckwheat Europe, Asia), quinoa (Andes).

Closer to home, our three favorite cereals are congee, museli (hot or cold) and polenta.

Congee is eaten all over eastern Asia, mostly for breakfast, or a late supper. A little rice and a lot if water (about 1:10 ratio) are cooked together to a porridge consistency. It’s personality is in the accompaniments: grilled pork, egg, chili, scallions, cilantro, you name it! It’s a blank canvas of any flavor inspiration.

Birchemuesli, or muesli, is a popular Swiss German breakfast cereal and late night snack. Renouned for being healthy it originally was prepared for recoverying hospital patients. Full of oat flakes (sometimes wheat, or rye), seeds, nuts and fruit it is often soaked ahead of time in water, cream or yogurt. We have been making our own version of “muse-li” and eat it as a hot cereal. A great way to start the day as the chill of winter is upon us. (About 1:4 cereal to water; cooked until thickens and grains are tender; serve with sheep’s yogurt, cinnamon (copious amounts), our granola and maple syrup).

Polenta: one of the three holy “P’s” behind pizza and pasta is not always considered a cereal. More often, this creamy, starchy, once Roman staple is cooked with seasoned stock, cream, milk, or water and paired with sauces, meats and vegetables. You can add less liquid and slice and grill the polenta after it cools and becomes firm. We use organic stone ground corn from Stoddarts Farm that has both coarse and fine grain mixed in (and it actually smells like corn!). The liquid base is 1/2 stock and 1/2 milk with bay leaf, salt and touch of cayenne pepper, plenty of garlic cooked in butter and a lot of grated cheese stirred in at the end. (I mentioned stir.) The best polenta is stirred constantly throughout cooking to prevent scorching and splatter as it thickens. (1:5 ratio cornmeal to liquid for creamy; 1:4 for firm; cook until thickens and the grains are tender; Buckwheat can be substituted or added with the cornmeal.)

Many whole cereal grains are available to us can easily be added to our diet. Freshly milled ones have a obvious benefits of more flavor and can be healthier for you. Try and buy from the source. A local farming community (or farmers market) is a great place to look. Although often more variety, keep in mind store bought ones will have gone through a distributor and may have been warehoused for some time.

Why Slightly Seedy is Better Than White Bread

While speaking to dozens of people at the farmers market we find there is a huge demand for gluten-free. Interestingly, the majority of people seem to be lacking a genuine gluten intolerance and still choose to avoid it anyway. As a result, there is a flood of gluten-free foods, many of which are quite awful. Quite early on we intended on making a gluten-free cracker, but have hesitated. Partly because gluten protein is vital to the structure and texture of the crackers, but also because it implies that gluten is bad. Well, on Saturday I spoke to someone who helped me put this into perspective.

Rebecca is a nutritionist and also a foodie, so I felt in good hands asking her some questions about gluten. She explained how some people would have issues eating a slice of white bread, for example, and less so with a whole grain cracker. Even though they both have gluten, there is no fiber in the white bread (devoid of anything really) so there is a chance for it to stay in the bowel longer (possibly fermenting), which can cause bloating, which is one of the symptoms. Where as the Slightly Seedy cracker that has the Red Fife whole wheat grain, oats, flax, sesame seeds an pumpkin seeds all of which promote better, and quicker digestion . So it really isn’t a gluten thing for certain people, but rather the quality of the flour that includes the whole grain.

Eat Only Local Food – Can You Do It?

I met a young woman, Rebecca, who is participating in a school project where she only eats food grown in Ontario for two weeks. She came up to our booth at Riverdale Farmers Market this week and bought a bag of Red Fife Wheat on the first day of this month long sabbatical. I couldn’t temp her with crackers as she was looking only for staples. Being in a farmers market, I told her, she was starting in the right place. I gave her my card and told to her call me if she needed help and that I looked foreword to reading about it in her blog. She looked a little surprised and said she hadn’t thought about doing one but was a good idea.

The next day Rebecca called me sounding a little stressed. She was looking for soy milk (as avoiding dairy), garbanzo beans, oil and chicken. I sent her to St Lawrence Market to Ying Ying Soy Foods who processes organic soy beans grown by Marcus and Jessie in Dashwood Ontario and may have soy milk, but definitely have tofu. (They also participate in the Wychwood and Brickworks Farmers Markets.)

Potts of 4 Life in Kensington Market is a great place to look for local foods and may have a varieties of beans for her. Although, garbanzos may be hard to find. Natures Way Organics (also at Wychwood and Brickworks) has sunflower oil this year and it’s great. they also grow beans and will have them later in the year.

Again, the markets are best place to start and most have meat and chicken vendors. But, due to a provincial standard they are only allowed to sell frozen. (Something to do with transporting perishables.) Not the smartest move. A lot if frozen meat is brought to the market in coolers and put back in the freezer several hours later. This back and forth, partial thaw and freeze, may happen several times. I bet more meat would sell being fresh without this rule to protect us.

Not to taint the meat vendors but I sent her to Sanagan’s Butcher, also in Kensington. In his second year, this young butcher is developing quite a following. Dealing directly with Ontario farmers, oftentimes you can get meat hours old from the abattoirs. Being quite small, he orders a couple times a week and sells out by the weekend.

I look forward to learning more about Rebecca’s new diet. Her roll up your sleeves determination will come in handy. I wonder if she will influence others to join in her adventure, creating a ripple effect of location conscience eaters? Or maybe the opposite may occur and she develops an extra appreciation for the well mechanized and fully-stocked chain grocery store?

I guess her blog will tell.